Brian Wilson

Download of the Month
Antonín DVOŘÁK (1841-1904)
Symphonic Poems
The Water Goblin, B195 [20:27]; The Noon Witch, B196 [13:58]; The Golden Spinning Wheel, B197 [25:45]; The Wild Dove, B198 [19:35]
Czech Philharmonic Orchestra/Sir Charles Mackerras
rec. 14 June, 2001 (Golden Spinning Wheel), 11-12 December 2008 (Water Goblin, Noon Witch), 9-10 September 2009 (Wild Dove), Rudolfinum, Prague, Czech Republic. DDD.
SUPRAPHON SU4012-2 [79:42] – from emusic (mp3)

Sadly, this will have to serve as a valedictory tribute to Sir Charles Mackerras. (See MWI obituaries by Bill Kenny and Brian Reinhart, the latter incorporating a summary of his legacy on disc by Rob Barnett.) It’s fitting that one of his last recordings should be of Czech music, which he did so much to promote. For all my love of Kubelík’s recordings of this repertoire – I’m not about to ditch my 2-CD set of the Overtures and Tone Poems, which has now been expanded to 3 CDs with the Slavonic Dances, 469 3662, available from passionato – I very largely agree with Brian Reinhart’s very detailed review, to which I refer you – here. I also agree with his praise of Mackerras’s recording of the Sixth Symphony, from which The Golden Spinning Wheel is taken – a shame about the duplication. I disagree only with his suggestion that Kubelík is now easily dispensable. Although all the tracks come at the bare minimum of 192k or very little higher, the sound of the download is more than adequate.

Reissue of the Month
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828) Piano Quintet in A (‘Trout’), D667
Clifford Curzon (piano) and Members of the Vienna Octet: Willi Boskovsky (violin), Gunther Breitenbach (viola), Nikolaus Hübner (cello), Johann Krump (double bass) – rec. 1958. Stereo/ADD.
BEULAH EXTRA 1BX41 (mvt.1), 2BX41 (mvts. 2 and 3) and 3BX41 (finale) [35:10] – from Beulah (mp3)

Of making many Trout Quintets there is no end, but even Ecclesiastes could never complain that this classic recording could ever be wearisome to the flesh and we must be grateful to Beulah for making it available again on its own at so reasonable a price. The only other way to obtain it, apart from the box set in which Decca have incarcerated it, is to download the Eloquence CD, on which it is coupled with the Death and the Maiden Quartet from Passionato (467 4172 – here).

Both the Passionato and Beulah downloads come in 320k transfers and both sound very little – if at all – inferior to my copy of the CD. The Passionato costs £7.99, or £5.89 for the Quintet alone, so the Beulah has a price advantage.

Other Beulah Extra Downloads
The road to Hell is paved with good intentions – one of which, I fear, is my promise to complete an article devoted to the Beulah Extra catalogue. I’ve been working on it for two months now but the pressure of getting these Download Roundups ready in time, as well as my usual CD, DVD and Blu-ray reviews, means that I’ll have to take the proverbial rain check for another month. In partial compensation, I’m grouping all the Beulah Extra July releases together here.

Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Serenade No.13 in G, K525 (Eine kleine Nachtmusik)
Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra/Wilhelm Furtwängler – rec.1937. Mono/ADD
BEULAH EXTRA 1BX31 [14:40] – from Beulah (mp3)

Serenade No. 6 in D, K239 (Serenata Notturna) [14:45]; Serenade No.13 in G, K525 (Eine kleine Nachtmusik) [19:41]; Notturno in D for Four Orchestras, K286 (K269a) [17:06]; Divertimento in F, K522 (A Musical Joke) [20:37]
Le Concert des Nations/Jordi Savall
ALIA VOX AVSA9846 [72:10] – from passionato (mp3)

There’s a real contrast of styles here. The 1938 Gramophone reviewer thought the Furtwängler stylish and the 1937 recording still stands up well – shapely and sprightly, with some really delicate playing at times, and in a transfer that is more than tolerable, with little or no 78 noise. This, or a slightly later Furtwängler performance, was still available on a 7” mono EP in the 1960s; I owned it, and I am very pleased to make its acquaintance again. The quality of the direction should come as no surprise to those who know – and admire, as I do – Furtwängler’s recording of Haydn’s Symphony No.88. Comparing the 1931 recording from the London Chamber Orchestra under Anthony Bernard, available from the King’s CHARM project (see below), a very straight performance, though not without its attractions, confirmed my high regard for the Furtwängler performance and recording, as transferred by Beulah.

Terry Barfoot gave a mixed welcome to the Savall – here – offsetting the advantage of the period instruments and style against the reverberant acoustic. I was far less troubled by the acoustic and generally very pleased with the performances. I’ve never heard such gloriously wrong horn notes, delivered with such panache in the Musical Joke; too often performances of this work leave the modern listener wondering what the joke is.

Così fan tutte Overture
Berlin Staatsoper Orchestra/Leopold Ludwig – rec.1938. Mono/ADD
BEULAH EXTRA 1BX4 [4:09] – from Beulah (mp3)

Short and sweet, in decent sound, but hardly one of the highlights of the Beulah catalogue.

Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827) The Creatures of Prometheus Overture
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Eduard van Beinum – rec.1952. Mono/ADD
BEULAH EXTRA 5BX37 [5:17] – from Beulah (mp3)

A powerful recording – good enough to make me wish that van Beinum had recorded the whole ballet, including the theme which Beethoven later re-used in the Eroica Symphony. The sound is still quite tolerable, with just a trace of distortion in the loudest passages – effectively brushed up by Beulah for an enjoyable release. I’m particularly pleased to see Beulah making van Beinum’s recordings available – his (mostly Decca) recordings were my own introduction to much of the classical repertoire. Try his 1951 Symphonie Fantastique on Beulah 1PD30, with other Berlioz Interpretations (£7.99 from iTunes), or on its own on Naxos Classical Archive for £1.99, from classicsonline.

Franz SCHUBERT Symphony No.4 in c minor (Tragic)
Concertgebouw Orchestra/Eduard van Beinum – rec.1952. Mono/ADD
BEULAH EXTRA 2BX37, 3BX37, 4BX37 [28:28] – from Beulah (mp3)

The 1953 Gramophone reviewer thought this one of Schubert’s least successful symphonies because of the influence of Beethoven; even now, the ‘Tragic’ is not often performed. Van Beinum’s version came out in competition with Klemperer and the Lamoureux Orchestra on Vox, which the present recording easily won, despite the fact that the latter was complete on one side, whilst Decca spread the van Beinum over two and charged 36/5, the equivalent of around £50 today. Van Beinum clearly had a natural affinity with this work – by no means the duffer that it’s often made out to be – and the recording clearly now sounds (much) better than on that early LP, which was dubbed ‘backward’. I very much enjoyed hearing this.

Franz LISZT (1811-1886) Les Préludes
Paris Conservatoire Orchestra/Enrique Jorda – rec.1947. Mono/ADD
BEULAH EXTRA 3BX57 [15:17] – from Beulah (mp3)

The Gramophone reviewer in 1948 thought the music ‘old stuff’ but believed that this recording would be very hard to beat. With Liszt’s bicentenary almost upon us, I suppose that we shall have plenty of new recordings and reissues of Les Préludes that easily outshine this in terms of playing and recording. Of all the Beulah Extras this month, this seems to me of least interest, except as a historical document – there’s even a touch of surface noise in places. One interesting historical comparison: the 78 recording cost 35/8, the equivalent of at least £50 now. Some things do get better.

Richard WAGNER (1813-1883) The Flying Dutchman Overture
Berlin Philharmonic/Richard Strauss – rec.1931. Mono/ADD
BEULAH EXTRA 2BX40 [9:24] – from Beulah (mp3)

A historical curiosity – Strauss conducting Wagner, whom he admired. The thin recording doesn’t help, though it has been wonderfully tidied up. The CHARM project (see below) offers a 1952 recording – yes, they were still making 78s then – with Nikolai Malko conducting the Philharmonia Orchestra on HMV C4176 – here – which you may find more to your liking, apart from the fact that no attempt has been made to join the sides, as Beulah do.

Josef Joachim RAFF (1822-1882) Cavatina, Op.85/3
London Symphony Orchestra/Sir Malcolm Sargent – rec.1930. Mono/ADD
BEULAH EXTRA 8BX13 [4:32] – from Beulah (mp3)

There are not many modern recordings of this piece, and only one on a CD devoted entirely to the music of Raff (Tudor 7086 – see review). The recording is rather faded, but this is otherwise a pleasant trip down Memory Lane.

Sir Edward ELGAR (1857-1934) Chanson de Matin; Chanson de Nuit [7:35] 
Three Bavarian Dances [12:02]
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Sir Adrian Boult – rec.1954. Mono/ADD
BEULAH EXTRA 15bx12 (Chansons), 16BX12 (Dances) – from Beulah (mp3)

Gustav HOLST (1874-1934) The Perfect Fool [10:46]
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Sir Adrian Boult – rec.1954. Mono/ADD
BEULAH EXTRA 17BX12 – from Beulah (mp3)

George BUTTERWORTH (1885-1916) The Banks of Green Willow [5:19]; A Shropshire Lad [8:40]
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Sir Adrian Boult – rec.1954. Mono/ADD
BEULAH EXTRA 18bx12 (Willow), 19BX12 (Shropshire) [13:59] – from Beulah (mp3)

More early fruits of the Indian Summer which lasted many years after Boult’s enforced retirement from the BBC, to add to the Beulah album of English Music which I made my Reissue of the Month last month. The performances are self-recommending and the 1954 recording has come up well in these transfers.

The recordings of the Elgar Chansons have appeared in a 5-CD set on the LPO label but are none the less welcome separately. There are many other highly recommendable versions of all this music – I’m thinking especially of the Chandos recording of The Perfect Fool which I recommended in February 2009, one of the last of Richard Hickox’s recordings, CHSA5069. (See also review by MWI Classical Editor here.) There’s also a wonderful anthology of later performances on Lyrita, Boult Conducts Holst (SRCD.222, not including The Perfect Fool so no overlap – see review), but none which excels Boult’s sure touch in 1954. Everything here is well worth the modest asking price.

Sir Edward ELGAR Pomp and Circumstance March No.1 in D
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Sir Henry Wood – rec 1940. Mono/ADD
BEULAH EXTRA 5BX3 [4:22] – from Beulah (mp3)

A valuable souvenir of a rather measured wartime recording, though not, I think, likely to be anyone’s first or only choice for this work. Go for Beulah’s Boult recordings of Elgar first.

Alphons DIEPENBROCK (1862-1961) Marsyas – incidental music
Concertgebouw Orchestra/Eduard van Beinum – rec.1953. Mono/ADD
BEULAH EXTRA 1BX37 [16:43] – from Beulah (mp3)

The story may be gruesome – Marsyas was flayed because his music challenged that of Apollo. However Diepenbrock’s incidental music – reminiscent of L’après-midi d’un faune – is certainly well worth hearing in this idiomatic performance. The recording is much more than tolerable in this transfer. With just two modern recordings – from Chandos and Brilliant Classics, both 2-CD sets – Marsyas deserves the advocacy of van Beinum.

Samuel COLERIDGE-TAYLOR (1875-1912) Petite Suite de Concert
London Symphony Orchestra/Sir Malcolm Sargent – rec. 1931. Mono/ADD
BEULAH EXTRA 9BX13 [14:02] – from Beulah (mp3)

The recording is inevitably faded, but not so much as to negate the pleasure of hearing Sargent’s idiomatic performance of a composer who is still too little known, despite the advocacy of the likes of Hyperion and Avie, both of whom have fine performances of his Violin Concerto. Much of the music will seem familiar, nevertheless. Very little surface noise remains in this fine transfer.

Ballet by Arrangement
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750
), arr. William WALTON The Wise Virgins [20:44]
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Sir Adrian Boult – rec. 1954. Mono/ADD.
William BOYCE (1711-1779) arr. Constant LAMBERT The Prospect before Us [24:22]
Sadlers Wells Orchestra/Constant Lambert – rec. 1940. Mono/ADD
Domenico SCARLATTI (1685-1757) arr. Vincenzo TOMMASINI The Good Humoured Ladies (1916/17) [14:55]
Paris Conservatoire Orchestra/Roger Désormière – rec. 1950. Mono/ADD
Luigi BOCCHERINI (1743-1805) arr. Jean FRANÇAIX Scuola di Ballo [17:01]
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Antal Doráti – rec. 1939. Mono/ADD
BEULAH 1PD40 [78:17] – due shortly from iTunes: please check here.

These works have in common baroque music arranged by 20th-century composers – just the sort of thing for which I have a weak spot – in recordings ranging from 1939 to 1954.

By the time that the complete Boult recording of The Wise Virgins appeared on a 10” LP in 1955, Sheep may safely graze had appeared twice on EP – most primary schools owned a copy to play as a prelude to morning assembly. So enduring was this association that it was a long time before I discovered that the original is taken from a secular, not a church cantata, and that the good shepherd was the local ruler. The Gramophone reviewer praised the performance, which remains a model of how to do this sort of thing, equalled only by Bryden Thomson on Chandos – but he thought the recording not one of Decca’s better efforts, which means that Beulah have done a fine job in making it sound more than acceptable.

The Boyce/Lambert The Prospect Before Us was completely unknown to me; it has some claim to be the pick of these recordings. Constant Lambert made a number of recordings of ballet music for HMV in 1939/40, several of which, including the Boyce arrangement, have been released by Somm on SOMMCD080. That Somm release is a very attractive prospect, with excellent transfers – see review by Bob Briggs – but the same is true of the current Beulah offering, in thin but very acceptable sound.

I have already commented on the Scarlatti and Boccherini arrangements as Beulah Extra downloads, so I’ll content myself with repeating what I wrote last month.

Good Humoured Ladies (also available as a download, 1BX17): I really enjoy this kind of confection and I was very pleased to be reminded of this suite from Le Donne di buon Umore, which began life as a skilful arrangement of sonatas by Domenico Scarlatti for a Diaghilev ballet. The performance has the kind of panache that is needed in order to bring off the blend of old and new and the recording is still quite acceptable, if a little thin. A friend recently remarked that about 1954 was a sort of watershed for sound that doesn’t remind the listener too much of its age. This is noticeably a little earlier than that watershed, but it’s well worth the modest asking price. In any case, the only rivals in the current catalogue appear to be a Testament CD transfer of the same Désormière performance, coupled with Ibert’s Divertissement, etc. (SBT1309) and another Testament CD with the Philharmonia and Igor Markevich (SBT1105).

Scuola di Ballo (also available as a download, 1BX14): Ten pieces by Boccherini, arranged for a ballet by Jean Françaix in or before 1933 and performed by the Ballet Russe de Monte-Carlo under the direction of Dorati, who recorded the music in 1939. I’m normally a great fan of this kind of pastiche, but I must admit to being underwhelmed by the present concoction, though it’s all well played and the transfer is very good for its age. The 1998 Pearl CD including the same performance seems to have disappeared from the catalogue. I was about to write that there was no current version of this music until I discovered that there is a Hyperion recording, coupled with other works by Françaix (CDA67323 – see review).

King’s College, London, CHARM Project
King’s College, London, have made available online free of charge the digitised versions of their collection of 78s and a few early LPs. The Homepage is here: click on ‘Sound Files Search’ at the right of the page to be taken to a list of composers in alphabetical order, performers and dates. The transfers are all in lossless flac.

I haven’t had much time yet to explore, but can report on some stylish performances of Abel (mis-spelled as ‘Able’) and Handel from the Boyd Neel Chamber Orchestra in 1940, performances which show more period awareness than I had thought possible for the date, Albert Sammons and Kathleen Long performing Delius’ Third Violin Sonata in 1944 and, best of all, Barbirolli with the LSO in 1947 in Elgar – the Enigma Variations and Introduction and Allegro. The records all seem to be in excellent condition; though they are played simply as they are, with no attempt to connect up the sides, I very much enjoyed the Elgar in particular.

You’ll also find a 1939 Boyd Neel Orchestra recording of Herbert Howells’ Elegy for Viola, String Quartet and String Orchestra, a work not performed all that often – of modern recordings I know only of versions by Boult (Lyrita SRCD.245 – see review) and Hickox (Chandos CHAN9161).


The Play of Daniel – a 12th Century Musical Drama
Processional [3:52]; Jubilemus Regi nostro [4:19]; Vos Danielem quaerite [4:00]; Solvitur in libro Salomonis [6:35]; Ecce Rex Darius [5:11]; Rex, in eternum vive! [1:30]; Heu, heu, heu! [4:35]; Te Deum Laudamus [10:29]
New York Pro Musica/Noah Greenberg – rec. New York, 1958. Stereo/ADD
Latin text and translation available to download
HIGH DEFINITION TAPE TRANSFERS HDCD199 [40:31] - from HDTT (CD, DVD, 24-bit/96kHz or 24/192 flac download)

This recording, first issued on the Brunswick label, a US Decca subsidiary, brought the 12th/13th-century liturgical Play of Daniel, performed at Beauvais, to general attention. It represents an important landmark in the history of drama and of music and this recording now itself has historical status. The work has been performed and recorded several times since, in particular, slightly less colourfully, by Pro Cantione Antiqua and the Landini Consort, directed by Mark Brown (last seen on Decca Serenata 433 371-2) and by the Dufay Collective on Harmonia Mundi HMU90 7479. I haven’t heard the Dufay Collective version, but the PCA deserves to be reissued, adding, as it does, to the text of the play as performed by Greenberg a work attributed to Albertus Parisiensis at the opening, one by Pérotin in the middle, and a couple of contemporary instrumental pieces.

Nevertheless, the Greenberg has pride of place – I remember a fellow undergraduate at Oxford telling me what a discovery it was, almost 50 years ago – and I am very pleased to encounter it again in such a fine transcription. There is a very slight dropout between tracks 1 and 2, as played via Squeezebox, but that appears to be caused by Squeezebox, since Winamp joins the two tracks seamlessly – you may prefer to download the free version of Winamp if you haven’t already got it. Otherwise, once again I am amazed at the quality of sound which HDTT is able to obtain from commercial reel-to-reel tapes – and with such little analogue hiss. This is a strong runner-up to the Beulah Schubert as Reissue of the Month.

Music from Magdalen
Magnificat antiphon - Inclita sancte [1:11]
John SHEPPARD (c.1515-1559/60) Magnificat a4 [9:36]; O happy dames [2:03]
John MASON (fl.1520s) Vae nobis miseris [11:44]
John SHEPPARD Laudem dicite Deo [7:40]
Richard DAVY (c.1465-1507) Joan is sick and ill at ease [5:37]
John SHEPPARD In manus tuas I-III [10:37]; Spiritus sanctus procedens a5 [7:57]
ANONYMOUS Magnificat antiphon - In diebus illis [1:52]
Richard DAVY Ah myn hart, remembir thee well a3 [5:08]
John MASON Quales sumus, antiphon a5 [10:55]
The Magdalen Collection/Harry Christophers – rec. 1997. DDD.
CORO COR16049 [74:20] – from passionato (mp3 and lossless)

This recording was originally issued in 1997 on the Collins Classics label as a tribute to the late Bernard Rose, former informator choristorum at Magdalen College, Oxford. Harry Christophers, himself a Magdalen alumnus, conducted an ad hoc group in a programme of music by three of Rose’s Tudor predecessors as informator, in editions produced by Rose himself. The result is a very successful anthology which should lead the uninitiated to other recordings of this repertoire, notable by The Sixteen (with Harry Christophers on Coro again) and The Tallis Scholars (on Gimell).

One such follow-up album might well be Songs of Angels, Signum Classics SIGCD038 [73:01], another Magdalen recording, this time with the choir directed by Bill Ives in music by Sheppard, Davy and Mason again, plus Jacquet of Mantua and Thomas Preston. There is just one overlapping item, the Mason setting of Quales sumus, taken at a slightly slower pace than by Christophers. Download in mp3 from classicsonline. What purports to be the same recording from passionato is actually part of a completely different recording – A Songbook for Isabella.

Giovanni Pierluigi da PALESTRINA (c.1525-1594) Missa Papae Marcelli
Viri Galilæi (Introit) [1:27]; Omnes gentes (Psalm) [4:56]; Kyrie [3:49]; Gloria [6:01]; Alleluia ascendit Deus [2:07]; Jesu nostra redemptio (Ascension hymn) [6:11]; Credo [8:50];
Beati omnes (Motet) [4:17]; Ascendit Deus (Offertory) [1:48]; Viri Galilaei - Ascendit Deus (Motet) [6:05]; Sanctus [3:38]; Benedictus [2:39]; Caro mea (Motet) [3:13];
Coenantibus illis (Motet) [3:35]; Agnus Dei [5:13]
Ensemble Officium/Wilfried Rombach
rec. Ev. Kirche Peter & Paul, Mössingen, 23-25 August 2004. DDD/DSD
CHRISTOPHORUS CHR77313 [64:55] – from passionato (mp3 and lossless)

This is not the first time that we have had a Palestrina Mass coupled with the propers for the Ascension: the Elmer Iseler Singers have performed the Missa Ascendo ad Patrem with the Ascension Introit, Offertory and Communion on a CD entitled The Glory of Palestrina (CBC Classics MVCD1067). Their choice of a Mass based on an Ascensiontide chant is more appropriate than Officium’s employment of the Marcellus Mass. More appropriate still might have been a recording of Palestrina’s Missa Viri Galilæi, based on his setting of that Ascensiontide piece, but I suppose Christophorus thought that the more familiar work would help sell their recording. In any case, Hyperion have just reissued their first-rate Westminster Cathedral recording of the Missa Viri Galilæi (CDH55355 – see June Download Roundup).

Otherwise I agree with Gavin Dixon’s recommendation in his review: “When it comes to Papae Marcelli recordings, the field is already crowded, but even so this disc deserves recommendation. If you like boy’s voices on the top lines, driving tempi or halo-like cathedral acoustics, give this one a miss. On the other hand, if you like clarity, engagement, precision and top-notch audio, this could be the Papae Marcelli for you.” 

Love and Lament
Claudio MONTEVERDI (1567-1643
) Lamento della Ninfa (1638) [6:05]
Girolamo FRESCOBALDI (1583-1643) Toccata 2a in F [3:55]
Domenico MAZZOCCHI (1592-1665) Lamento di David [10:54]
Johann KAPSBERGER (c.1580-1651) Toccata Settima (1640) [5:40]
Alessandro della CIAIA (c.1605-c.1670) Lamentatio Virginis in dispositione Filii de cruce (1666) [17:15]
Michelangelo ROSSI (c.1601/2-1656) Settima Toccata [5:14]
Giacomo CARISSIMI (1607-1754) Historia di Jephte [24:12]
Johannette Zomer (soprano); Capella Figuralis; Netherlands Bach Society/Jos van Veldhoven – rec. 2000? DDD.
CHANNEL CLASSICS CCSSA17002 [73:00] from emusic (mp3)

The first and last items, the Monteverdi and the Carissimi, are the best known and they form the principal reason for recommending this recording, with the Historia di Jephte, an example of early oratorio, having some claim to be considered the definitive performance of that work. The other items, vocal and instrumental, make excellent couplings and the whole programme is well worth having for the cost of seven tracks, potentially less than £2. The bit-rate ranges from a barely acceptable 192k to the maximum 320k, with most tracks at an acceptable 224k.

Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741) L’Olimpiade, RV 125 (1734)
Sara Mingardo (contralto) – Licida; Roberta Invernizzi (soprano) – Megacle; Sonia Prina (alto) – Aristea; Marianna Kulikova (mezzo) – Argene; Laura Giordano (soprano) – Aminta; Riccardo Novaro (baritone) – Clistene; Sergio Foresti (bass) – Alcandro
Concerto Italiano/Rinaldo Alessandrini
rec. July 2002, Sala Accademica del Pontificio, Istituto di Musica Sacra, Rome. DDD.
NAÏVE OPUS 111 30316 [3 CDs 174:56] - from classicsonline (mp3) (highlights on NAÏVE OP30451)

See Glyn Pursglove’s review of the highlights CD: “I can think of only one possible reason why any lover of Vivaldi or baroque opera would not wish to possess this CD of highlights from L’Olimpiade: because he or she already owns the complete recording from which they are taken.” If you didn’t follow GP’s advice to buy the highlights disc, the whole opera can be yours as a download for £23.97 in good mp3 sound.

Handel ‘Oxford’ Water Music
George Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759) Trio Sonata in G, Op.5/4, HWV399 (1734) [13:16]
Jean-Marie LECLAIR (1697-1764) Première Récréation de musique in D, Op 6 (1736) [23:48]
Arcangelo CORELLI (1653-1713) Trio Sonata in G, Op 2/12 (1685) [3:37]; Trio Sonata in C, Op.1/7 (1681) [4:49]
Francesco GEMINIANI (1687-1762) Violin Sonata in A minor, Op 4/5 (1742) [6:15]
George Frideric HANDEL Water Music, Suites 1-3, HWV348-350 (1717) (arr. Tatty Theo for chamber ensemble) [14:31]; Trio Sonata Op.2/3 in B flat, HWV388 (1730) [11:05]
Brook Street Band (Hannah McLaughlin (oboe), Marianna Szücs, Katalin Kertesz (violins),
Tatty Theo (cello), Carolyn Gibley (harpsichord)) – rec. 2002. DDD.
Avie AV0028 [77:23] – from passionato (mp3 and lossless)

A very attractive programme containing chamber-scale excerpts, from early manuscript versions, of the Handel Water Music, together with music by his contemporaries, all very well performed and recorded. Recommended to anyone who already owns a version of the conventional Water Music, of which there are many fine versions, not least those of Trevor Pinnock in a multi-disc budget box of Handel recordings, Joint Bargain of the Month in my April 2010 Roundup, and Hervé Niquet on Glossa (see April 2009 Roundup).
- See MusicWeb International review: Recording of the Month – here.

Music for St Paul’s
George Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759)
Utrecht Te Deum, HWV278 (1713) [20:30]
Utrecht Jubilate, HWV279 (1713) [16:29]
John BLOW (1649-1708) I was glad when they said unto me (1697) [14:11]
William BOYCE (1711-1779) Lord, thou hast been our refuge (1755) [22:43]
Edward Burrowes, Timothy Burtt, Alastair Cook (trebles); Julia Gooding, Sophie Daneman (sopranos); Robin Blaze, Ashley Stafford (countertenors); Rogers Covey-Crump (high tenor); Mark Le Brocq (tenor); Andrew Dale Forbes (bass); The Choir of St Paul’s Cathedral
The Parley of Instruments (Peter Holman, director)/John Scott
rec. St Paul’s, London, 13-17 October 1997. DDD. Texts included.
HYPERION HELIOS CDH55359 [74:13] – from Hyperion (mp3 and lossless)

The earliest piece here, by Blow, was written for the official consecration of St Paul’s in 1697. The two Handel works were written to celebrate the Duke of Marlborough’s victories and the Treaty of Utrecht which sealed the peace pro tem, whilst the Boyce, here receiving its first recording, was written for the Festival of the Children of the Clergy. The Handel works, his first major setting of English, are hardly vintage pieces and the performances are a little scrappy in places – try the trebles at the opening of the Te Deum to see what I mean. The Decca/Oiseau-Lyre recording with Emma Kirkby, Judith Nelson and Simon Preston on a Double Decca (458 0722, with the music for Alceste, etc., or 455 0412, with the Coronation Anthems) is preferable. Download the former from here – ignore the fact that the wrong cover is illustrated – and the latter here or buy the equivalent CDs, which are actually available less expensively. The Blow and Boyce works are worth having.

The recording is good, but for once the Hyperion notes are short, though mainly to the point. They fail to point out that Rogers Covey-Crump sings the opening section of the Jubilate as a high tenor, rather than the alto traditionally assigned to the part, following recent research.

Charles AVISON (1709-1770)
Six Sonatas for the harpsichord with accompaniments for two violins and violoncello, Op.5 [65:33]
Six Sonatas for the harpsichord with accompaniments for two violins and violoncello, Op.7 [46:36]
Members of the Avison Ensemble: Gary Cooper (harpsichord); Pavlo Beznosiuk and Caroline Balding (violins), Robin Michael (cello)
DIVINE ART DDA21215 [65:33 + 46:36] – from classicsonline (mp3)

This is a fine successor to the earlier 2-CD sets of Avison which Divine Art have been issuing over the past couple of years. The music, performances and recording are all as recommendable as on those earlier recordings. Just two niggles: the Naxos Music Library offers the back cover to its subscribers – sample the performances there first if you wish – so why cannot their partner site, classicsonline, do the same for purchasers? Like the other sets, Divine Art offer the parent CDs as two-for-one; at £9.99, though the classicsonline price is still lower than that of the discs, it doesn’t represent the 2-for-1 discount, since it is twice their usual (attractive) price for this label of £4.99.

I’ve already recommended the other Avison Ensemble recordings of the music of their namesake: Op.6 Concertos (Naxos 8.557533/4) and the Divine Art 2-CD sets DDA21210 (Concerti Grossi after Geminiani’s Op.1), 21211 (Op.9/10), 21213 (Concerti after Scarlatti) and 21214 (Trio Sonatas and Keyboard Sonatas), all available from classicsonline. Let me add, to complete the set, their equally fine recording of the Op.3 and Op.4 Concertos on Naxos 8.557905/6, available from classicsonline (mp3).

William BOYCE (1711-1779) Trio Sonatas Nos.1-12 (1747); Sonatas Nos.13-15 (from Fitzwilliam MS, Cambridge)
The Parley of Instruments/Peter Holman – rec. October 1995. DDD.
HYPERION DYAD22063 [2CDs-for-1: 120:11] – from Hyperion (mp3 and lossless)

Double helpings of Boyce’s attractive music from Hyperion this month - see Music from St Paul's (above). If you already know and like his Symphonies, which one Radio 3 announcer recently revealed that his young son classified, appropriately, as ‘bouncy’, you’ll find more of the same here – not just the twelve published works but three additional, recently discovered sonatas to complete a highly enjoyable pair of recordings at budget price. The recording is excellent and the presentation – easily downloaded and printed – well up to Hyperion standards. If, like me, you have had problems downloading from Hyperion via freedownloadmanager, you should try using Safari or Google Chrome, both easily obtained free if you don’t already have them and both very effective at downloading several tracks simultaneously. I’m told that Firefox works well, too, with Hyperion downloads, using the downthelot add-on.

If you have yet to become acquainted with the Eight Symphonys [sic], Op.2, passionato have four excellent versions from Trevor Pinnock (DGG), Kevin Mallon (Naxos, also available from classiconline), Ronald Thomas (CRD) and Christopher Hogwood (Decca), all on period instruments except the CRD. The Naxos is the least expensive but by no means the least recommendable. The Naxos music library offers subscribers the Mallon and also Boughton (Nimbus NI5345 - see review) and a Vox recording featuring Jörg Faerber and the Würtemberg CO – remember their Turnabout LPs of the Brandenburgs and Four Seasons, the latter with Suzanne Lautenbacher? You’ll find the Vivaldi on Naxos Music Library, and on classicsonline here for a bargain £4.99; it’s a trifle heavy by the standards of modern recordings, but well worth considering. The Boyce is available from classicsonline, also at £4.99, here, complete with original cover, a snazzy design from the Decca art department.

Domenico CIMAROSA (1749–1801) Requiem in g minor (1787)
Adriana Kučerová (Soprano); Terézia Kružliaková (Alto); L’udovit Ludha (Tenor); Gustáv Beláček (Bass); Lúčnica Chorus/Elena Matušová; Marianna Gazdíková (Organ); Capella Istropolitana/Kirk Trevor
rec. Slovak Radio Concert Hall, Bratislava, Slovakia, 24- 25, 30 May, 1 June 2008. DDD
Booklet with texts and translations included as pdf.
NAXOS 8.572371 [51:45] – from classicsonline (mp3)

Don’t expect the high drama of the Verdi or Mozart Requiem – this work by Cimarosa is aptly described on the rear cover as characterised by classical restraint. It is, nevertheless, well worth getting to know and the performance here is thoroughly competent, with Naxos returning to the Capella Istropolitana who made so many fine recordings for them in their early days. With good recording and informative notes – texts and translations included in the pdf booklet, too – only the rather short playing time detracts from the attractiveness of the download.

Antonio SALIERI (1750-1825) Requiem in c minor (1804)[38:58]
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827) Meeresstille und glückliche Fahrt, Op.112 [7:29]
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828) Offertorium: Intende voci, D963 [9:30]
Gulbenkian Foundation Chorus and Orchestra/Lawrence Foster – rec. November 2009. DSD.
PENTATONE PTC5186359 [56:22] - from passionato (mp3 and lossless)

This is not the Requiem that the film Amadeus would have you believe that Salieri tried to steal from Mozart, but his own composition, played at his state funeral. It’s no rival for the Mozart, but a competent and enjoyable work. I have no benchmark for the performances but they seem just as competent and enjoyable as the music, and the recording does them justice, especially in the lossless flac transfer. The fillers by his student Beethoven, who claimed that Salieri had taught him more than Haydn, and Schubert are pleasant makeweights, but I would have much preferred more Salieri – and a longer playing time. Surround-sound enthusiasts will need to buy the physical SACD.

Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791) Mozart in Vienna
Piano Sonata no.18 in D, K.576 [15:08]; Fantasy in d minor, K.397 [5:38]; Piano Sonata no.17 in B-flat, K.570 [17:56]; Rondo in a minor, K.511 [9:31]; Ten Variations in G major, K.455: Unser dummer Pöbel meint [12:56]
Gottlieb Wallisch (piano)
LINN RECORDS CKD352 [61:53] – from Linn (mp3, lossless and 24-bit Studio Master)

Delicacy of touch is the hallmark and chief selling point of these recordings; if that is your main criterion, this programme of piano music from the last ten years of Mozart’s life may be confidently recommended. Wallisch, who has previously recorded Schubert for Naxos, is equally well attuned to the music of Mozart. Add to that a good recording – even in ‘ordinary’ CD-quality sound – and you have the ingredients of a fine download. Or would have, if there were not so many other highly recommendable recordings of this repertoire, though none with exactly this programme. Some of the rivals offer better value: Haefliger (Avie AV0025 – see review) fits the last four sonatas on one CD – available from classicsonline. They also have Jenö Jandó’s more than workmanlike versions of Nos. 9, 12, 16 and 17 on 8.550446 and Nos. 3, 7, 11 and 18 on 8.550448. (Listen to all of these on the Naxos Music Library.) If tempted by the 24-bit versions, make sure that your player can cope with 88.2kHz or 192kHz files: Squeezebox won’t, though it does cope with HDTT’s 96kHz flac.

Die Zauberflöte, K620 (The Magic Flute)
Erika Miklósa (soprano) - Queen of Night; Dorothea Röschmann (soprano) - Pamina; Julia Kleiter (soprano) - Papagena; Christoph Strehl (tenor) - Tamino; Kurt Azesberger (tenor) - Monostatos; Hanno Müller-Brachmann (baritone) - Papageno; René Pape (bass) - Sarastro; Caroline Stein (soprano) - First Lady; Heidi Zehnder (soprano) - Second Lady; Anne-Carolyn Schlüter (mezzo) - Third Lady; Alexander Lischke (soprano) - First Boy; Frederic Jost (soprano) - Second Boy; Niklas Mallmann (mezzo) - Third Boy; Danilo Formaggia (tenor) - First Armed Man and Second Priest; George Zeppenfeld (bass) - Speaker; Sascha Borris (bass) - Second Armed Man; Andreas Bauer (bass) - First Priest; Tobias Beyer (speaker) - Third Priest
Arnold Schoenberg Choir; Mahler Chamber Orchestra/Claudio Abbado
rec. Teatro Comunale, Modena, Italy, September 2005. DDD.
DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 477 5789 [2 CDs: 148:38] – from passionato (mp3)

The classic Klemperer recording – without dialogue, and all the better for that, in my opinion – remains an unshakeable first choice for me, but this is an excellent modern alternative. As Dan Morgan wrote of the highlights CD: “Abbado and the Mahler Chamber Orchestra have learned something from the authenticists and strike a good balance between the stylistic extremes of Harnoncourt and Klemperer. As I have indicated there is much to savour in between but if you want a thoroughly refreshing Zauberflöte, well played and well sung, the Abbado is hard to beat.” (477 6319 - see review.)

Hector BERLIOZ (1803-1869) Symphonie Fantastique, Op.14 [49:01]
Boston Symphony Orchestra/Charles Munch – rec.1962. Stereo/ADD
HIGH DEFINITION TAPE TRANSFERS HDCD207 [49:01] – from HDTT (24 bit/96kHz or 192kHz)

Munch's earlier, 1954, recording is also available as a hybrid SACD on the mid-price RCA Living Stereo label, coupled with an excerpt from Romeo and Juliet (82876678992 – see appreciative reviews by Jonathan Woolf of this recording in a box set - here – and by Christopher Howell - here). I haven’t heard that CD, but the HDTT transfer, taken from a 4-track commercial tape, sounds very well, especially when the original LP issue was not exactly singled out by reviewers for its sound quality. The performance is good, often very good, with the Boston players clearly superior to their Lamoureux counterparts on the Roussel recording (below), but competition is fierce in this symphony, with Beecham’s EMI recording still top of a very distinguished tree among recordings of this vintage. Beecham also comes with a coupling, whereas the Munch is short value at $12 (96kHz) or $16 (192kHz). HDTT also have a recording of the Symphonie Fantastique by André Vandernoot with the French National Orchestra, which I plan to review in next month’s Roundup – see review by Bob Briggs.

Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)
Piano Trios: No. 1 in D minor, Op. 49 (1839) [26:51]; No. 2 in C minor, Op. 66 (1845) [26:54].
The Florestan Trio (Anthony Marwood (violin); Richard Lester (cello); Susan Tomes (piano)).
rec. Henry Wood Hall, London, 16-18 December 2003. DDD
HYPERION CDA67485 [53:45] - from Hyperion (mp3 or lossless)

Reviewing a recent release of these trios from Itzhak Perlman, Emanuel Ax and Yo-Yo Ma (Sony Classical 88697 52192 2), I turned for comparison to these award-winning Florestan Trio versions and found them to be preferable – the superb winning over the (very) good, without resorting to any gimmicks, just staying faithful to Mendelssohn’s markings. Colin Clarke thought these the first choice, too – see his review. There’s a real bonus for downloaders, too, in that the short playing time is reflected in the price: just £5.99 for mp3 or lossless.

As a follow-up to the Mendelssohn, why not try:
Salomon JADASSOHN (1831-1902)
Piano Trios: No.1 in F, Op.16 (1858) [19:50]; No.2 in E, Op.20 (1860) [21:57]; No.3 in c minor, Op.59 (1880) [20:13]
Syrius Trio (Elizabeth Cooney (violin); Jan Cords O’Hara (cello); Bobby Chen (piano))
TOCCATA TOCC0107 [62:00] – from Toccata Classics (mp3)

Idiomatic performances, well recorded, in good mp3 sound. The music is influenced by Mendelssohn and others, but has its own voice, too. Don’t forget that one of the benefits of belonging to the Toccata Discovery Club is a substantially discounted price for the CD or download. Consider, too, the Tovey Piano Trios from Toccata (see below).

Hyperion have Jadassohn’s two Piano Concertos, coupled with the Piano Concerto of Felix Draeseke (1835-1915): Markus Becker with the Berlin Radio SO conducted by Michael Sanderling (CDA67636) on CD or mp3 or lossless download here.

Bedrich SMETANA (1824-1884) Piano Trio in G minor Op.15 (1855) [25:14]
Bohuslav MARTINŮ (1890-1959) Piano Trio No.1: Cinq pièces brèves (1930) [10:48]
Petr EBEN (1929-2007) Piano Trio (1986) [21:10]
The Florestan Trio (Susan Tomes (piano), Anthony Marwood (violin), Richard Lester (cello))
rec. Henry Wood Hall, London, 9-11 December 2008
HYPERION CDA67730 [57:14] – from Hyperion (mp3 and lossless)

This seems to be the month for recommendations of Piano Trios. For further details of this recording and an appreciative review by Dominy Clements, click here. To compensate for the slightly short playing time, the download in either format is offered at £6.99 instead of the usual £7.99, so it’s excellent value, too.

Boris Godunov
Galina Vishnevskaya, Nicolai Ghiaurov, Biserka Cvejic, Ludovico Spiess, Martti Talvela, Zoltan Kelemen; Sofia Radio Chorus; Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra/Herbert von Karajan – rec. 1970. ADD
DECCA 475 7718 [3 CDs: 68:41 + 72:24 + 70:21] – from passionato (mp3)

Sometimes characterised as the ‘luxury Boris’, this is the best of the recordings available as a download unless and until someone makes the 5-CD Gergiev set of both versions available. Passionato also have the 1962 Cluytens (EMI 5678812) which was highly regarded in its day, not least for the singing of Boris Christoff – I still have a soft spot for this, as it was the version from which I came to know the opera. All downloads come with the great disadvantage of being libretto-less in an opera where the words and translation are essential for full appreciation. As far as I am aware, only the Russian libretto, in Cyrilic, is available online.

Gustav MAHLER (1850-1911)
Symphony No. 4 in G (1899-1901)
Laura Claycomb (soprano); San Franscisco Symphony Orchestra/Michael Tilson Thomas – rec. live, 2003. DDD.
SFSO MEDIA 821936-0004-2 [62:28] – from emusic (mp3)

With impeccable illogicality, eMusic placed this download in a folder for ‘New York Philharmonic’. No, that’s the other side of the USA! Having recently reviewed MTT’s recording of Das Lied von der Erde, I was expecting to enjoy this recording, especially as Tony Duggan had written in glowing terms: “Tilson Thomas and the SFSO in Mahler go from strength to strength with a Fourth from the grand tradition”. (See review). After disappointments with Fischer and Maazel in this Symphony, in last month’s Roundup, this certainly came as a welcome corrective – and a strong challenger to Szell.

Des Knaben Wunderhorn (1892-1901)1: Revelge; Rheinlegendchen; Lied des Verfolgten im Turme; Wer hat dies Liedlein erdacht? Lob des hohen Verstandes; Der Schildwache Nachtlied; Wo die schönen Trompeten blasen; Trost im Ungluck; Des Antonius von Padua Fischpredigt; Verlorne Müh; Das irdische Leben; Der Tamboursg’sell
Alban BERG (1885-1935) Wozzeck – Excerpts2
Janet Baker (mezzo); Geraint Evans (baritone); London Philharmonic Orchestra/Wyn Morris – rec.19651 ADD
Phyllis Curtin (soprano); Boston Symphony Orchestra/Eric Leinsdorf2

Like the Noah Greenberg Play of Daniel (above), this version of Des Knaben Wunderhorn was recognised as a classic from the start, when it was issued on the Delysé label. Its return is very welcome, since the budget-price IMP/Pickwick reissue has gone the way of all flesh. (PCD1035 – worth looking out for second-hand copies.) The Leinsdorf/Berg makes a strange bedfellow – I’m afraid that Berg is not my cup of tea - but it does make an otherwise short recording time more palatable. The transfer is excellent: I was inclined at first to think Evans slightly over-recorded on his loudest notes, but the 1966 Gramophone reviewer attributed this rather to his being slightly overtaxed, which I think is the truth of the matter.

Tony Duggan, in his survey of the Mahler song-cycles – here – also refers to what he describes as a slight glare at peaks on the IMP/Pickwick issue so, whatever the cause, I guess it was present on the master tapes and is ineradicable. The HDTT website refers to Geraint Evans as ‘Germaine’ several times. Strongly recommended, for all that.

Edward ELGAR (1857-1934)
The Kingdom, Op. 51 – Prelude (1905) [9:31]
Violin Concerto in B minor, Op. 61 (1910) [48:03]
The Dream of Gerontius – Prelude and The Angel’s Farewell (1900) [17:21]
Thomas Zehetmair (violin); Alice Coote (mezzo); Hallé Orchestra/Mark Elder
rec. Bridgewater Hall, Manchester, 23 March 2005 (Kingdom), 3-4 May 2008 (Concerto) and 15-19 July 2008 (Gerontius). DDD.
HALLE CDHLL7521 [74:54] – from emusic (mp3)

William Hedley – here – and Jonathan Woolf – here – both thought this a near-miss. My first impression was a little more favourable than theirs, but I must admit that I really didn’t see the point of the two oratorio excerpts, when other recordings offer more apt couplings. Still, it’s only six tracks from eMusic – just over £1 – so it’s worth a try. eMusic also have the Past Classics transfer of the classic Menuhin/Elgar recording for just 3 credits – less than £1. I haven’t heard it, so I can’t comment on the quality of the transfer, but that remains the benchmark for all subsequent versions. All the tracks on this Hallé recording are at 224k or 256k and the sound is more than acceptable.

Sir Donald Francis TOVEY (1875-1940)
Bride of Dionysus Prelude (1918) [5.32] (arr.Shore/Vass)
Symphony in D Op. 32 (1913, rev. 1923) [58.03]
Malmö Opera Orchestra/George Vass
rec. Swedish Radio Studio 7, Malmö, Sweden, 27 May 2005. DDD
TOCCATA CLASSICS TOCC0033 [63.20] – from Toccata (mp3)

Cello Concerto, Op.40 (1935) [54:16] *
Air for strings** (arr. Peter Shore) [2:15]
Elegiac Variations, op. 25, for cello and piano (1909) [10:11]
Alice Neary (cello); Ulster Orchestra/George Vass
Gretel Dowdeswell (piano) - rec. Ulster Hall, Belfast, 29-30 May 2006. DDD
*First modern recording; **First recording
TOCCATA TOCC0038 [67:04] – from Toccata (mp3)

Chamber Music - Volume 1
Piano Trio in b minor op.1 (1900) [37:40]
Piano Trio in c minor op.8 Style Tragique (1908) [27:26]
London Piano Trio - rec. 27-29 August 2007, Potton Hall Studio, Westleton, Suffolk. DDD
first recordings
TOCCATA TOCC0068 [65:06] - from Toccata (mp3)

Piano Concerto in A, Op.15 (1903) [33:20]
Sir Alexander Campbell MACKENZIE (1845-1935) Scottish Concerto (1897) [28:09]
Steven Osborne (piano); BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra/Martyn Brabbins – rec.1998. DDD
HYPERION CDA67023 [61:39] – from Hyperion (mp3 and lossless)

Well-crafted music which certainly deserves more than an occasional outing. See reviews of TOCC0033 – here – TOCC0038 – here – and TOCC0068 – here – by Classical Editor Rob Barnett. The transfers, in 320k mp3, are all very good. Peter Shore’s excellent sleeve-notes are available, too. Incidentally, I complained recently about the missing sleeve-notes for the Toccata Dvořák recording, TOCC0100; I’m assured that these will soon be posted.

If anything, the Hyperion (Volume 19 in their Romantic Piano Concerto series and first recordings of both works) is even more desirable – and the download, in mp3 and flac is only £6.99, instead of the usual £7.99, to reflect a playing time which, while not ungenerous, comes in at less than 65 minutes.

Albert ROUSSEL (1869-1937) Suite in F [13:52]; Symphony No.3 [24:47]; Symphony No.4 [22:57]
Orchestre de l’Association des Concerts Lamoureux/Charles Munch – rec.1965. Stereo/ADD
HIGH DEFINITION TAPE TRANSFERS HDCD206 [61:36] – from HDTT (24 bit/96kHz or 192kHz)

The Roussel symphonies, minus the Suite, are also available on Warner’s mid-price Elatus label, rather short value at 48 minutes (0927467302). Tony Haywood in his review had some reservations about the playing and recording – and about the playing time – but thought these the sort of performances that come along rarely. I agree – this is something much more special than the Berlioz – and the HDTT transfer (from an Erato LP) does full justice to the performances. The addition of the Suite in F – no mere makeweight but, inevitably lighter than the symphonies – goes some way towards remedying the problem of the playing time. Strongly recommended – it runs the Beulah Trout Quintet a close second as my Reissue of the Month. This is a musical and listening experience of quality: it may even be that HDTT have got more out of the grooves of an Erato LP than Warner’s Tonmeister have from the master-tapes. The 96kHz download costs $14 and the 192 kHz $18. As always with HDTT downloads, use the sample tracks to make sure that your system can play 24/96 or 14/192 flac files.

Ralph VAUGHAN WILLIAMS (1872-1958)
Mass in g minor (1921) [22:35]; A Vision of Aeroplanes (1956) [9:31]; The Voice out of the Whirlwind (1947) [5:23]; Valiant-for-Truth (1940) [5:32]; Three Choral Hymns (1929) [12:55]; Nothing is here for tears (1936) [2:14]; The Souls of the Righteous (1947) [3:19];
A Choral Flourish (1956) [1:42]
James McVinnie and Ashok Gupta (organ); Choir of Clare College, Cambridge/Timothy Brown - rec. Chapel of St. John’s College, Cambridge, UK, 16 July 2009 and Chapel of Jesus College, Cambridge, UK, 17 July 2009. DDD
Sung texts are available at:
NAXOS 8.572465
[63:11] – from classicsonline (mp3)

With small reservations, William Hedley thought this a most desirable disc – see review. It’s not, perhaps, such an urgent recommendation as the other Naxos/VW recording which I reviewed recently, of Dona Nobis Pacem and Sancta Civitas (8.572424, June Roundup) but it runs it pretty close.

Sergey RACHMANINOV (1873-1946)
Symphony No.2 [60:51]
London Symphony Orchestra/Valery Gergiev – rec. live, September, 2008. DDD.
LSO LIVE LSO0677 [60:51] – from emusic (mp3)

A powerful, if rather idiosyncratic performance. It won’t be to all tastes, though it has already received one enthusiastic review – try it first, if you can, though it will cost you a mere £1 if you are an emusic subscriber. Your reaction may depend on your feelings about the complete score, as played here, against the usual cuts, and Gergiev’s addition of a timpani thwack to the score at the end of the first movement, which has already drawn an adverse comment on emusic. I enjoyed it, but retain my affection for Previn (EMI) and Rozhdestvensky (an IMP recording, reissued on Regis RRC1210 – see review).

Alternatively, classicsonline have the Naxos recording conducted by Alexander Anissimov (8.554230) and theclassicalshop and classicsonline have Alexander Gibson’s budget Chandos recording (CHAN6606) in the same lower price bracket. (Passionato’s price for the Gibson is out of line with the other suppliers, as also is their price for the Previn 3-CD set by comparison with the price of the physical CDs.)

Havergal BRIAN (1876-1972)
Concert Overture: For Valour (1902-06)1 [13:31]
Comedy Overture: Doctor Merryheart (1911-12)2 16:07
Symphony No. 11 (1954)2 24:38
Symphony No. 15 (1960)1 22:54
RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra/Tony Rowe1; Adrian Leaper2
Recorded in association with the Havergal Brian Society and The Rex Foundation at the National Concert Hall, Dublin, 6 September 1993 and 27 May 1997. DDD.
NAXOS 8.572014 [77:10] – from classicsonline (mp3) - Previously released on Marco Polo 8.223588

A warm welcome for this straight reissue of a pioneering Marco Polo recording of the music of an unconventional but unjustly neglected composer – only at the end of his long life, following a TV programme, did he receive anything like his due. The music is far better than the ‘all-British wallpaper’ description with which the BBC Music Magazine greeted the original issue and the performances and recording – well transferred here – do it justice. Go for the splendid Lyrita release of Symphonies Nos. 6 and 16 first, though (SRCD.295 – see review and November 2009 Roundup).

John IRELAND (1879–1962)
Violin Sonata No. 1 in d minor [30:26]; Violin Sonata No. 2 in a minor [27:58]; Cello Sonata in g minor [20:40]
Lucy Gould (violin); Alice Neary (cello); Benjamin Frith (piano)
rec. Champs Hill, West Sussex, UK, 19-21 October, 2009. DDD.
NAXOS 8.572497 [79:05] – from classicsonline (mp3) (August, 2010 release)

Violin Sonata No 1 in d minor [27:58]; Berceuse [3:20]; Cavatina [2:18]; Violin Sonata No 2 in a minor [25:19]; Bagatelle [2:32]; The Holy Boy [3:15]
Paul Barritt (violin), Catherine Edwards (piano) – rec. 1995. DDD.
HYPERION HELIOS CDH55164 [65:04] – from Hyperion (mp3 and lossless)

The excellent new Naxos recording faces strong competition in the same price range from the Hyperion reissue. The Hyperion performances are slightly faster and a little more intense; otherwise the coupling may decide your choice – the Cello Sonata (Naxos) against shorter pieces, including the well-known The Holy Boy (Hyperion). To complicate your choice further, there is a recommendable 2-CD-for-1 set of Ireland’s Chamber Music on Chandos (CHAN241-40, in mp3 or lossless here) and an even more comprehensive 3-for-2 Lyrita set (SRCD2271, 20 tracks from eMusic – see review by Classical Editor Rob Barnett here).

Bela BARTÓK (1881-1945)
String Quartets: No.1 in a minor [28:16]; No.3 in C-sharp [15:19]; No.5 in B-flat [30:12]; No.2 in a minor [25:41]; No.4 in C [22:12]; No.6 in D [29:12]
Takács Quartet – rec. 1998. DDD.
DECCA 455 2972 [2 CDs: 150:50] – from passionato (mp3)

Reviewing the recording by the Belcea Quartet (EMI 3944002, at budget price), which he thought splendidly performed, Michael Cookson nevertheless preferred these Takács performances by a considerable margin – see review. These performances now oust the Alban Berg Quartet from my collection, by an even greater margin.

Passionato also have the Belcea set – here – good value as a special offer at £7.99 (mp3) or £9.99 (flac) as I write, but less appealing when they return to £15.99 and £19.99, which is more expensive than the Takács set and more than many online suppliers charge for the CDs.

Igor STRAVINSKY (1882-1971) The Firebird – Suite (1945) [30:48]
Anatol LYADOV (1855-1914) Baba Yaga, Op.56 [3:05]; Kikimora, Op.63 [7:25]; The Enchanted Lake, Op.62 [8:32]
Nikolay RIMSKY KORSAKOV (1844-1908) Dubinshka, Op.63 [3:57]
London Symphony Orchestra/Neeme Järvi – rec. May 1987 and June 1988. DDD.
CHANDOS CHAN8783 [53:47] – from theclassicalshop (mp3 and lossless)

The mp3 version of this full-price recording was Chandos’s free gift to subscribers to their newsletter in July. The 1945 Firebird Suite runs to almost the complete ballet, so its inclusion here is very welcome – and it’s in appropriate company. Performances and recording are good, though the wide dynamic range means that the opening of the Firebird is almost inaudible at normal levels. The mp3 transfer is faithful.

George BUTTERWORTH (1885-1916)
Six Songs from A Shropshire Lad [12:43]; Folk Songs from Sussex, Nos.7-11 [7:50]; Bredon Hill and other songs [14:11]; I will make you brooches [2:11]; I fear thy kisses [1:50]; Requiescat [2:52]; Folk Songs from Sussex, Nos.1-6 [10:08]
Roderick Williams (tenor); Ian Burnside (piano) – rec. January, 2010. DDD
NAXOS 8.572426 [52:05] – from classicsonline (mp3)

Of the many settings of Housman’s cycle A Shropshire Lad, Butterworth’s is, with some justification, the best known. There are two basic approaches – the dramatic and the lyrical – and Williams and Burnside choose mainly the lyrical. Williams doesn’t ignore the dramatic elements, but I could wish that he gave us a little more of them. The Sussex Folksongs are well sung, with a (slightly twee) touch of Mummerset dialect where appropriate and well accompanied. For all my slight reservations, this is a most enjoyable addition to Naxos’s English Song series – a new recording, not inherited like some of the earlier volumes from the defunct Collins catalogue. The sound is good – I’d have preferred something a trifle more forward – and Keith Anderson’s notes, as usual, excellent. The lyrics are available online here.

Rued LANGGAARD (1893-1952) Music of the Spheres (Sfærernes musik) (1916-18) [35:29] Four Tone Pictures (1917) [17:44]
Gitta-Maria Sjöberg (sop) Danish National Radio Choir Danish National Radio SO/Gennadi Rozhdestvensky - rec. Danish Radio, 21-24 February 1996. DDD.
CHANDOS CHAN9517 [53:21] – from theclassicalshop (mp3 and lossless)

A five-star review from Classical Editor Rob Barnett says it all; I need add only that the transfer is very good, even in mp3 format. A most enjoyable recording from a composer who is still far too little known – including by me. His total omission from the current Penguin Guide is inexplicable. Chandos have three other Langgaard recordings, all available to download, and passionato also have several DaCapo recordings of his music.

Carl ORFF (1895-1982) Carmina Burana (1936)
Gundula Janowitz; Gerhard Stolze; Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau; Deutschesoperorchester/Eugen Jochum – rec. 1967. ADD.
DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON ORIGINALS 447 4372 [56:06] – from passionato (mp3)

Like Jonathan Woolf, reviewing the Marin Alsop/Naxos recording here, this remains one of my favourite versions of the Carmina Burana. The performance is just right – powerful where power is called for, without being OTT – and the recording wears its years lightly in a good transfer.

I haven’t heard JW’s other favourite, from Leitner on Arts, but passionato also have my other favourite, another vintage version, conducted by Frühbeck de Burgos, though, at £7.99 (mp3) and £9.99 (flac), that version is uncompetitive with the physical CD equivalent when it was last available on EMI’s budget Encore label. (It seems currently not to be obtainable.)

Andrzej PANUFNIK (1914-1991)
Heroic Overture [6:58]; Symphony No.6 (Sinfonia di Sfere) (1975) [33:48]; Landscape, for string orchestra [8:29]; Sinfonia Sacra (1966) [25:35]
Tampere Philharmonic Orchestra/John Storgårds – rec. 2006. DDD.
ONDINE ODE1101-5 [74:50] – from passionato (mp3 and lossless)

Attractive and approachable music from a 20th-century composer who spoke with a distinctive voice and who was not afraid to experiment, without his music sounding unduly angular – if you like Stravinsky and Copland, you’ll enjoy Panufnik’s music. This performance of the Sinfonia di Sfere makes a fine alternative to that by David Atherton on Explore EXP0014 – see review – which is not available as a download to the best of my knowledge. The recording sounds fine, especially in the lossless (flac) version.

Einojuhani RAUTAVAARA (b.1928)
Symphony No.7 (Angel of Light) (1994-5) [34:19]; Flute Concerto, Op.69 (Dances with the Winds)* (1974) [21:33]; Cantus Arcticus for birds and orchestra, Op.61 (1972) [16:55]
Petri Alank (flute)*; Lahti Symphony Orchestra/Osmo Vänskä – rec.1992, 1995, 1999. DDD.
BIS-CD-1038 [72:47] – from passionato (mp3 or lossless)

A fine cross-section of Rautavaara’s extremely approachable yet idiosyncratic music, very well performed and recorded and well transferred. An ideal introduction to the work of this intriguing composer, with the benchmark recording of the mesmerising Cantus Arcticus rightly placed last – anything else would be an anti-climax. Passionato have several other fine Rautavaara recordings, mostly on the Ondine label, and classicsonline have several Naxos recordings of his music. Sample them, including the BIS recording of Cantus Arcticus, etc., via the Naxos Music Library.

Kenneth LEIGHTON (1929–1988) Orchestral Works – Vol. 2
Symphony No. 2 Sinfonia Mistica for soprano, chorus and orchestra op. 69 (1973-74) [48:41]
Te deum Laudamus for soprano (or semi-chorus), chorus and orchestra (1964-1966) [8:44]
Sarah Fox (soprano); BBC National Chorus of Wales/Adrian Partington; BBC National Orchestra of Wales/Richard Hickox - rec. Brangwyn Hall, Swansea, 27-28 November 2007. DDD
CHANDOS CHAN10495 [57:28] – from theclassicalshop (mp3 and lossless)

Classical Editor Rob Barnett aptly described this as ‘sincere and undemonstrative music not lacking in grandeur’ and welcomed the CD as one of the last set down by Richard Hickox – see review. The transfer sounds fine, even in mp3, and the download may be recommended – apart from the fact that the track information comes out in Squeezebox as gibberish. Don’t forget the Cello Concerto and Symphony No.3 which I reviewed last October – here – and be aware that a new Chandos recording has just been issued, featuring the First Symphony and the Third Piano Concerto (CHAN10608, Howard Shelley/BBC NOW/Martyn Brabbins).

Beatles Go Baroque
Peter Breiner Chamber Orchestra/Peter Breiner – rec? Released 2000. DDD
NAXOS 8.555010 [56:50] – from classicsonline (mp3)

Beatles Baroque, Volume 1
Les Boréades de Montréal – rec. 2000. DDD
ATMA ACD22218 [41:02] – from passionato (mp3 or lossless) or classicsonline (mp3)

Two very enjoyable arrangements of Beatles music in baroque style; both work very well. The Naxos is the more adventurous, with whole multi-movement Concerto Grosso arrangements in the style of Handel, Vivaldi and Bach, whereas the Atma recording simply arranges the music tune by tune. The Naxos has the longer playing time, but neither is generous. Both classicsonline and passionato offer two further volumes in the Atma series – preview them all at the Naxos Music Library.

Geoffrey BURGON (b. 1941)
Viola Concerto Ghosts of the Dance (2008) [20:32]; Merciless Beauty for mezzo and small orchestra (1996-97) [20:08]; Cello Concerto (2007) [22:01]
Sarah Connolly (mezzo); Philip Dukes (viola); Josephine Knight (cello); City of London Sinfonia/Rumon Gamba - rec. Blackheath Halls, London, 29-30 September (concertos), 22 December 2009 (Merciless Beauty). DDD
premiere recording of concertos
CHANDOS CHAN10592 [62:43] – from theclassicalshop (mp3 and lossless)

MWI Classical Editor Rob Barnett described this as a tribute to Burgon, the CLS principals who appear as soloists and to the Chandos team – see review. If you know Burgon only as the composer of TV and film music, you ought to find echoes of what you know but in a more substantial form here. A good transfer, especially the lossless wma (I also sampled the mp3), completes the attraction of this as a download.

Brian Wilson